This Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous Arcanist Build Class Guide will be covering the Arcanist Class, which is one of the new Classes. In this Guide you’ll learn not only how Arcanist Builds work, but also what the differences are between the Arcanist Archetypes: Brown-Fur Transmuter, Eldritch Font, Nature Mage, Unlettered Arcanist, White Mage, and Phantasmal Mage.
There will of course be tips about which Abilities, Skills and Feats to take, along with some suggestions about how to play the Class effectively. This will not be a copy of the Pathfinder Handbook, and it will attempt to summarize things (where applicable) to make it easier to understand, because that is a big part of the reason people need Guides for Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, and it can be a bit overwhelming to sift through this on your own. If you’re new to Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous, or you would just like an overview of the Arcanist Class and how to make an effective one, this Arcanist Build Guide is for you.
Arcanist Build | Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous Class Guide
The Arcanist Class in Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous is a spell casting Class that has special “spell-like” abilities called Arcane Exploits. Arcanists have a flexibility that some other spell casting Classes don’t have, because they get to cast Spells or “cast” one of these “spell-like” abilities (only available to them as they level up). Arcanists can also sacrifice some of their Spells in order to use more Arcane Exploits, allowing them to have the right response for every situation.
Arcanist Builds operate somewhere between a Wizard and a Sorcerer. They use Intelligence to improve their Spells, and must prepare them before they can use them, like a Wizard. However, they have the same amount of Spells as a Sorcerer, they can cast their prepared Spells in any combination they want, and they use Charisma (for their Arcane Exploits), like a Sorcerer.
- Primary Abilities: Intelligence & Charisma
- Hit Die: d6
- Skills: Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (World), Lore (Religion), Lore (Nature), Use Magic Device
- Base Attack Bonus: +0
- Proficiencies: Simple Weapons
- Archetypes: Brown-Fur Transmuter, Eldritch Font, Nature Mage, Unlettered Arcanist, White Mage, and Phantasmal Mage
Arcanist Build | Class Features
Arcanist Builds use Intelligence to determine not only the effectiveness of Spells, but also what level of Spells can be learned. Arcanists must prepare Spells before they can be used by changing them in their Spellbook and then Resting.
Arcanists have what is called an Arcane Reservoir, which is a separate resource pool with a number of Points equal to 3 + 1/2 their Arcanist Level. They can spend Points from their Reservoir to either a) buff the Spell they are about to cast, or b) perform what is called an Arcane Exploit.
Arcane Exploits function much the way Spells do, though they are not technically Spells, don’t appear in your Spellbook, and they have a couple of very important differences.
First, they draw from the Arcane Reservoir when being used, and don’t count as using a Spell. This means an Arcanist can continue to cast Spells even when their Arcane Reservoir is empty, or continue to use Arcane Exploits after exhausting all of their Spells. And second, many Arcane Exploits are affected directly by the Charisma Modifier of the Arcanist. This means Arcanists will need high Intelligence and Charisma to be effective with both Spells and Arcane Exploits.
Arcanists will select one Arcane Exploit during Character Creation, and then one additional Arcane Exploit every odd level thereafter. Once they reach Level 11, they can select a Greater Exploit instead of an Arcane Exploit, if they wish at each odd level. Greater Exploits are essentially more powerful Arcane Exploits, and they usually cost 2 Points of the Arcane Reservoir instead of 1.
Arcanists can Consume Spells to add Points to their Arcane Reservoir if they wish. The number of Points added are equal to the Spell’s level, and this can only be done a number of times each equal to the Charisma Modifier of the Arcanist. Note that Arcanists will always be able to do this at least once, even if their Charisma Modifier is 0 or a negative number.
Once Arcanists reach level 20 they will acquire the Magical Supremacy ability, allowing them to cast Spells using their Arcane Reservoir, instead of consuming one of their prepared Spells. The number of Points used are equal to the level of the Spell cast, and this allows them to cast more Spells than some other Classes.
Arcanist Build | Archetypes (Subclasses)
Arcanists have 6 Archetypes, as I already mentioned, and these change certain aspects about the Class while at the same time maintaining much of the Classes structure and identity. In this section I’ll cover what those Archetypes are, what they do, and why you might consider selecting one. First up is Brown-Fur Transmuter.
The Brown-Fur Transmuter archetype of Arcanist essentially trades some Arcane Exploits for stronger Transmutation Spells, which typically buff the caster in some way, usually by enhancing their Stats like Strength or Dexterity, etc. Additionally, they can also cast Transmutation Spells that would normally only target themselves, on other friendly targets if they wish. And once max level their Transmutation Spells have a longer Duration.
Consider using this archetype if you’d like to be able to buff your own Ability Scores more effectively while in combat, as well as those of your Companions. Losing the Magical Supremacy ability is a loss, but it’s one that you won’t likely feel until you are very far into Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous, so it may not affect the majority of your gameplay. If you go with this Archetype consider playing an Intelligence focused Arcanist Build who only uses Arcane Exploits that target self, and dump Charisma as it won’t be needed in this case.
- Stronger Transmutation Spells when buffing Ability Scores (Level 3)
- Transmutation Spells that only target self can be cast on others (Level 9)
- Longer Duration for all Transmutation Spells (Level 20)
- Less Arcane Exploits (-2)
- No Magical Supremacy at Level 20
The Eldritch Font Archetype of Arcanist trades some Arcane Exploits for an ability they can use a few times a day that greatly improves the chances of success for any Spell they cast. This ability called Eldritch Surge, only improves as the Eldritch Font levels up, allowing for more effects, though it can still only be used a total of 3 times per day. Additionally, they are granted an ability that replenishes some Spells and refills most of their Arcane Reservoir once per day.
The ability to replenish your resources once a day is nice, but you won’t gain it until level 20, and you’ll likely have to Rest to regain Spells and Abilities of your other party members anyway. Losing 3 Arcane Exploits is a lot, and is nearly a third of what an Arcanist gains. However, there are much fewer Arcane Exploits to choose from in Wrath of the Righteous than are present in table top, so it may not matter as much to you. If you go with this archetype consider playing an Intelligence focused Arcanist Build who only uses Arcane Exploits that target yourself, and dump Charisma.
- Eldritch Surge can buff Spell DC or Arcane Exploit (Level 3)
- Eldritch Surge can roll two dice when casting a Spell that targets Armor, taking the higher value (Level 7)
- Eldritch Surge can reroll the Saving Throw of a character against your Spell DC, taking the lower of the two rolls (Level 13)
- Can replenish their Spells and Arcane Reservoir once per day (Level 20)
- Less Arcane Exploits (-3)
- No Magical Supremacy at Level 20
The Nature Mage trades the Arcanist Spell List for those of the Druid, allowing you to cast Druid Spells with your Intelligence Modifier instead of Wisdom. Arcane Exploits still use Charisma, and you won’t be able to use the Druid’s Wild Shape ability or bond with an animal, but it is another way to play a caster who uses Druid Spells.
Consider using this archetype if you like Druid Spells but you don’t care for animal companions or being able to shapeshift, but you still want the Arcane Exploits of the Arcanist. Or, if you plan to have another spell caster in your party that uses a similar Spell List to the Arcanist, such as a Wizard or Sorcerer.
- Can cast Spells from the Druid Spell List
- Can’t cast Spells on the Arcanist Spell List (unless they are also on the Druid Spell List)
The Unlettered Arcanist archetype of Arcanist simply trades the Wizard/Sorcerer Spell list for those of a Witch instead. This means you’ll choose from a smaller Spell list than other Arcanists, but you’ll gain a Familiar. Familiars provide passive benefits to their masters, usually to Skills, but not always.
Consider using this archetype if you are somewhat knowledgeable about the Spells you wish to choose, and you know that the ones you want are contained in the Witch Spell List. Additionally, choosing the Hare Familiar will give you +4 to Initiative Checks, meaning you will get your turn earlier in the round if you are playing Turn-Based, and you’ll cast faster in Real Time with Pause.
- Gains a Familiar
- Has a smaller Spell List
The White Mage archetype of Arcanist trades some Arcane Exploits for the ability to use any Cleric Spell with the word “Cure” in the name. In order to do this they must use one point from their Arcane Reservoir, and they must Consume a Spell of the same level as the Cure Spell. At Level 10 it also allows them to cast the Breath of Life Spell in exchange for 5 points of their Arcane Reservoir, which is a powerful heal that can also revive recently slain allies.
Once they reach level 11 they can choose the Greater Exploit Fast Healing, which allows them to Consume a Spell in order to heal party members within 30ft for half the level of the Spell Consumed every round for a number of rounds equal to the Charisma Modifier of the White Mage.
Consider using this archetype if you don’t have a healer in your group, or you’d like the option to have some extra heals should you need them. What’s great about White Mages is that you don’t ever have to use the heals, and you can still cast offensive Spells and Exploits as normal, but you CAN heal if you need to. Sacrificing 2 Arcane Exploits could be worth it in some circumstances, but not being able to select an Arcane Exploit during Character Creation means that you’ll get off to a much slower start when compared with other Arcanists. Additionally, White Mages need Charisma due to the Greater Exploit Fast Healing, so you cannot dump this Stat.
- Can Consume Spells to cast Cure Spells
- Can revive fallen party members (Level 10)
- Can AoE heal over time (Level 11)
- No Arcane Exploit selection during Character Creation
- Less Arcane Exploits (-2)
The Phantasmal Mage archetype of Arcanist trades some Arcane Exploits, and the ability to use its Arcane Reservoir to increase the level of Spells, for the ability to improve Illusion Spells with Metamagic using Arcane Reservoir Points. As they grow in level they can use stronger and stronger Metamagic with these Spells in order to make them even more powerful in exchange for even more Arcane Reservoir Points. However, only Gnomes can be Phantasmal Mages, preventing other Races from becoming one.
Consider choosing this archetype if you plan to play as a Gnome Arcanist, or if you plan to use Illusion Spells regularly. Keep in mind you will sacrificing 3 Arcane Exploits for stronger Illusion Spells, and you won’t have access to Magical Supremacy at Level 20. This is a very decisive playstyle, one that I don’t recommend to new Arcanists.
- Can apply Extended, Reach, or Selective to any Arcanist Illusion Spell for 1 Arcane Reservoir Point (Level 5)
- Can apply Persistent or Empowered to any Arcanist Illusion Spell for 2 Arcane Reservoir Points (Level 11)
- Can apply Maximized for 3 Arcane Reservoir Points, or Quickened for 4 Arcane Reservoir Points to any Arcanist Illusion Spell (Level 17)
- Can apply these effects for 1 less Arcane Reservoir Point than listed (Level 20)
- Must be a Gnome
- Less Arcane Exploits (-3)
- Can’t increase the level of their Spells using their Arcane Reservoir
- No Magical Supremacy at Level 20
If after going through those you still aren’t sure which Archetype to play, I’d suggest going with the default Arcanist or the White Mage. Default will get you a better sense of how the Class plays, and White Mage has great flexibility and you can’t ever get enough healing.
Arcanist Build | Stats & Races
Arcanist Builds are spread a bit more thinly than other Classes because they need Intelligence for their Spells, Charisma for their Arcane Exploits, Dexterity for Initiative and Ranged Touch Attack Accuracy, and Constitution for more HP and Fortitude Saves. However, it is possible to play an Arcanist without investing much into Charisma, since many Arcane Exploits are not offensive and don’t improve with higher Charisma.
Of these Stats Intelligence should be the highest, as it impacts your Arcanist Build the most, and is needed for many of the Spells you cast. I’d take this to at least 18.
Charisma is second, because of your Arcane Exploits, and I would take this to at least 16. Higher is better, but it’s hard to get as many points as you want, because you still need some Dexterity and Constitution. The exception is if you plan to dump this Stat because you don’t plan to take offensive Arcane Exploits, but if you’re a new Arcanist, it is recommend you don’t do this.
Dexterity is needed as it affects not only your Ranged Touch Attack chance to hit, but also your Armor Class, and your Initiative. Many Spells and Arcane Exploits you cast are Ranged Touch Attacks, so this will come in handy. Take this to at least 14 if you can.
Constitution affects your total HP, and your Fortitude Saving Throws. Fortitude Saving Throws are important, because they can reduce the damage you take from other Spell Casters who use Spells that deal damage. Arcanists don’t have a ton of Health, so high Fortitude can help keep them alive.
Your Stat spread should look something like this:
- STR: 7
- DEX: 14
- CON: 14
- INT: 18
- WIS: 9
- CHA: 18
- STR: 8
- DEX: 16
- CON: 15
- INT: 20
- WIS: 10
- CHA: 7
Good choices of Race are Elf, Aasimar – Emberkin (Peri-Blooded), Tiefling – Grimspawn (Daemon-Spawn), Tiefling – Beastbrood (Rakshasha-Spawn), and Human. Of these I highly recommend Aasimar – Emberkin (Peri-Blooded), or Tiefling – Grimspawn (Daemon-Spawn) as they come out with some fantastic results Stats-wise, which I’ve shown above.
Best Arcane Exploits
Arcane Exploits make up a huge part of the gameplay of the Arcanist Class, and choosing which to select is a big part of playing an Arcanist. In this section I’ll make some recommendations about which to take. Keep in mind these are a bit generalized and don’t take into account which archetype you chose, or whether you’ve Multiclassed or not. Please note that Wrath of the Righteous features far fewer Arcane Exploits than are present in table top, and that my recommendations are based upon the video game, not table top.
Potent Magic – This is likely the first Arcane Exploit you will take, or at the very least one you should take early on. It doubles the effectiveness of the Abilities Arcane Reservoir – Increase Caster Level, and Arcane Reservoir – DC from 1 to 2. You’ll be using these abilities all through out the game, so there is absolutely no reason not to take it early on.
Acid Jet, Flame Arc, Ice Missile, Lightning Lance or Sonic Blast – If you took Potent Magic first then you’ll likely want to take one of these second in order to give you another Ranged option. You can take one of these first if you wish and then get Potent Magic if you’d prefer, either is fine. Note that all of these Arcane Exploits are Ranged Touch Attacks which target the enemy’s Touch Armor Class, except Flame Arc which targets Reflexes. Touch Armor Class includes that target’s Dexterity, Deflection, Dodge, and Size bonuses to AC, but not the Armor they are wearing, Natural Armor, and Shield bonuses. Thus it is actually easier to hit enemies who wear Heavy Armor than those that do not with these Arcane Exploits, as they usually have less Dexterity, Deflection and Dodge bonuses.
Dimensional Slide – This Arcane Exploit will allow you to teleport to a nearby location without triggering an Attack of Opportunity and counts as a Move Action, allowing you to use a Spell or another Arcane Exploit in the same turn. This can be invaluable, and doesn’t require Charisma to be effective.
Armored Mask – You should have Mage Armor active as an Arcanist most of the time, and this Arcane Exploit will grant you and additional +5 Armor Class (Deflection) at level 18. Between Mage Armor, this Arcane Exploit, and solid Dexterity, you should have a very good Armor Class.
Further Arcane Exploits should probably be used to acquire more of the damage dealing type, as listed above, and to take Greater Exploits that improve them, that way you can get around immunities and reductions to certain damage types. You can take these in whichever order you wish, but if you took an archetype with reduced Arcane Exploits you will not be able to get them all.
Arcanists gain Feats at Level one, and every odd level thereafter. In this section we’ll take a look at some good Feats to take for an Arcanist, that will enhance its style of play.
Point Blank Shot increases the likelihood your Ranged Touch Attack Spells will connect by +1 if the target is within 30 ft. Many Spells and Arcane Exploits you use will take advantage of this Feat, so it’s worth getting. It’s also a prerequisite for Precise Shot, which you will want as well.
Precise Shot removes the -4 penalty for targeting an enemy with a Ranged Touch Attack Spell or an Arcane Exploit that counts as a Ranged Touch Attack, that is already engaged in melee combat. Since you will often target enemies engaged with your front line, this can drastically increase the likelihood some of your Spells and Arcane Exploits will connect.
Toughness will increase your overall HP making you harder to kill. Arcanists don’t have a ton of HP to begin with so having extra HP can make all the difference in a fight. Take this one early to benefit from it for the majority of the game.
Improved Initiative is good because it allows you to take action faster in Real Time with Pause once combat begins, and increases the odds you will go before the enemy in Turn-Based. Going first can allow you to disable or kill dangerous enemies before they ever get a chance to do anything.
Spell Penetration can help you get through the Spell Resistance of certain enemies, and is also a good choice. You’ll have far more Feats than you actually need, so take ones like Spell Penetration that can help you in some way.
Note that Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous does not contain the Extra Reservoir Feat, which would be very good for this Class, otherwise I’d recommend taking it. If it is ever added to the game, consider taking this Feat as many times as the game will allow after you have the above so that you can cast the most Arcane Exploits you can.
Arcanist Build | Weapons & Armor
Arcanists don’t really need to use Weapons since they’ll have both Spells and Arcane Exploits to use in combat, as well as Cantrips. Cantrips don’t do nearly the damage of Ranged Weapons, but they target the Touch Armor of enemies, which is usually much lower than their normal AC. Arcanists don’t get much Base Attack Bonus, so they will end up missing far more often when using Weapons. Base Attack Bonus increases far more for marital Classes, and Arcanists are not martial Classes.
Arcanists have no Proficiency with Armor, so they won’t wear any, but will use Mage Armor and Armored Mask instead. Look for Robes to wear instead of Armor so that you don’t incur penalties when casting. Arcane Exploits don’t incur Arcane Spell Failure since they are not technically “Spells”, but you will also cast lots of Spells as an Arcanist, and Mage Armor and Armored Mask should protect you well enough.
Prestige Classes & Multiclassing
Of the 13 Prestige Classes in Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous, Arcanists really only qualify for 4 of them: Arcane Trickster, Dragon Disciple, Eldritch Knight, and Hellknight Signifier. So if you plan to take a Prestige Class then it will likely be one of these 4. However, you should not take Eldritch Knight or Hellknight Signifier Prestige Classes because not only will you will cease to gain Arcane Exploits when taking Levels in these Classes, the Arcane Exploits that you currently have will stop increasing in damage. If you want to take either of these Prestige Classes, you’d be far better off selecting another spell casting Class like Wizard or Sorcerer.
Of the 4 Prestige Classes that Arcanist can somewhat easily qualify for, Arcane Trickster is likely the best candidate because it can add damage to some Arcanist Spells and most Arcane Exploits via Sneak Attack. You can reach this Prestige Class at Level 6 by taking 1 Level of Rogue and 4 of Arcanist first. The upside is that Sneak Attack can add damage to ALL of your Spells (at level 10 Arcane Trickster), not just your Ranged Touch Attack Spells. The downside is that you cannot Sneak Attack in every scenario, meaning that you may do more damage opening combat, but you could do less overall damage.
If you plan to take Arcane Trickster you’ll likely use one of your Arcane Exploits to pick off an enemy quickly at range via Sneak Attack, only using Spells once combat begins until you reach level 10 in Arcane Trickster. This should allow you to eliminate one enemy from each group before you engage them, though you won’t have as much versatility once the fighting starts.
- Higher potential damage with Spells via Sneak Attack
- Can Sneak Attack mid combat up to 4x per day
- Can Sneak Attack with non Ranged Touch Attack Spells at Level 10
- Can use Trickery at range
- Still gain Arcanist Spells when taking Arcane Trickster Levels
- Arcane Exploits will deal almost no damage when not Sneak Attacking
- Not every enemy can be Sneak Attacked
- No Greater Exploits if you take 10 levels of Arcane Trickster
- Sneak Attack can be used often in melee combat if you Flank, which you won’t be doing
At 1 rank of Dragon Disciple you can gain +1 Damage per dice rolled for all Spells that deal one damage type, which is determined by the Bloodline you select. Ideally you’d try to select Spells that all deal this damage type, as long as they roll multiple dice for best results. This works particularly well for Arcane Exploits that deal damage, since they add a d6 to their damage roll every 2 levels, which would increase one’s damage by +10 at Level 19.
Taking anymore than 1 rank of Dragon Disciple comes with the loss of more Arcane Exploits and Arcane Exploit damage, so it’s not recommended.
- Can increase damage with one damage type by +1 per dice rolled, including Arcane Exploits.
- Won’t be able to gain Magical Supremacy
There is not much benefit in an Arcanist Multiclassing, except maybe a single Level, because Arcanists need to take levels in Arcanist to increase the effectiveness of their Arcane Exploits that deal damage. And while they can gain Spells of the Arcanist Class without interruption when taking levels in some Prestige Classes, their Arcane Exploits will not increase in damage when doing so. Since Arcane Exploits are such a huge part of the Arcanist Class, it almost defeats the point of selecting it in the first place if you don’t care to have them.
You can select Arcane Exploits that don’t use your Charisma Modifier if you don’t want to bother with Charisma in your Arcanist Build. There are half a dozen solid choices, but because many of the Arcane Exploits from Pathfinder Table Top didn’t make it into Wrath of the Righteous, you may be really limiting yourself not taking some that deal damage.
You really cannot have enough Dexterity when playing an Arcanist Build, because 4 of the 5 damage dealing Arcane Exploits in Wrath of the Righteous are Ranged Touch Attacks that use Dexterity to calculate their Attack Rolls. Don’t be afraid to have 16 or 18 Dexterity, or use Transmutation Spells that increase this number even further!
Lastly, do not forget that you can Consume Spells to gain more Arcane Reservoir Points to cast your Arcane Exploits. Sometimes that’s all you need to do to win fights, particularly early on in the game when they will out perform most of the Spells you have in terms of damage.
Stay tuned for more Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous Class Guides, as we take a look at all 10 new Classes. And be sure to check out the Official Wrath of the Righteous Wiki if you have more questions about the game!